Made In The Mountains
Screen Printing - Lake Louise, AB
Embroidery - Canmore, AB
Hat Production - Cranbrook, BC
Short Essay - 3 min read
In 2017 The 'Carbon Disclosure Project' released a controversial study on global emissions, claiming that just 100 companies are responsible for over 71% of all emissions. Because "downstream emissions" were attributed to the producing company and not the consumer, some readers found contention with the study believing that responsibility entirely falls on those producing the goods to operate as ethically and sustainably as possible. In contrast, others argue that the consumers using and generating the demand for said products should also be held accountable.
"The most significant change in marketing in recent years has been the power shift from brands to consumers." (CNBC) Thanks to social media, shoppers—not retailers—are now becoming the critical influencers over what their peers buy. Not only is social media making shoppers more powerful, but it's also making them more influential. Today, shoppers have a huge advantage over the businesses they buy from; we call that 'consumer power.' Consumer power is similar to purchasing power but additionally considers the demand and social influence generated from every purchase. In other words, it supports the idea that every purchase is significant and every dollar spent is, realistically, a vote cast to enable or condemn exploitative industry standards. However, the most challenging part of solving any issue is bridging the gap between knowledge and action.
Across the world, businesses spend billions of dollars annually on management consulting and advice. But oddly enough, the recommendations the firms paid for are seldom implemented. A 2000 Harvard business study by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, Professors of organizational behaviour, sought to find the answer to, what they titled, the 'Knowledge-Doing Gap.' The team discovered that organizations spend over $60 billion each year on management training. However, much of the basis for this training is on knowledge and principles fundamentally timeless-unchanged or unchanging.
Nevertheless, often the exercise repeats regardless of the content, delivery, or repetition frequency.
Here's another example of two managerial consultants from a leading firm working on a large electrical utility project facing deregulation in Latin America. They soon discovered that management already had a four-year-old 500-page document with extensive plans and recommendations produced by a different consulting firm. (The Knowledge-Doing Gap, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton)
There is no easy answer in explaining why this occurs or proper suggestions for fixing it. (Often, experts attribute it to individual circumstances.) Still, it's agreed upon that it's less important to understand the reasoning behind each case and much more beneficial and valuable to the organization to identify the gaps in the first place. One of Pfeffer and Sutton's main recommendations is to engage more frequently in thoughtful action. Spend less time contemplating and talking about problems. Even if you fail, taking action will generate experience from which you can learn and grow.
"The difference a tiny improvement can make over time is astounding. Here's how the math works out. If you can get 1 percent better each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you're finished. Conversely, If you get 1 percent worse each day for one year, you'll decline nearly to zero. What starts as a small win or minor setback accumulates into something much more." - (James Clear, Atomic Habits)
Regardless of where the ultimate environmental responsibility falls, through the power of our purchases, regarding the demand it generates and the inherent persuasion it holds. Consumers can combat exploitive and destructive industry standards by bridging the knowledge-doing gap and making a conscious shift in everyday decision-making. Decisions that seem unspecial and momentary but ultimately contribute to something much more significant. And remember, imperfect action is always better than perfect inaction.